Short Night of the Glass Dolls (1971) Review

A surprising and unique twist on the giallo format, 'Short Night' begins with an American journalist Gregory Moore (Jean Sorel), being brought to the city morgue, after being found 'dead' on the streets of Prague. What the doctors fail to realise is that the journalist is stuck in a catatonic state, unable to move or speak. Even as the doctors discuss performing an autopsy on him, he must listen in horror, stuck in his immobile state. What follows next is a series of flashbacks, where Moore attempts to piece together past events, particularly the ones involving his girlfriend Mira (Barbara Bach), who vanished one night at a lavish party.

Utilising a concept first seen in an old episode of 'The Twilight Zone,' 'Short Night' plays on an ancient and terrifying fear: catalepsy - a condition that makes a person seem dead, when in fact the brain is still alive and functioning. Famously in Europe this led to the spreading of the vampire myth in times past, where a person might enter a comatose state, and without proper medical attention be buried alive. This was reported in many places, and was only compounded by the fact that when they later exhumed the bodies there was found to be clawing and scraping on the inside of the coffin. A sombre little giallo that features very little killing, or bloodshed, instead this builds a claustrophobic atmosphere of dread, as we watch the helpless Moore attempt to free himself. Beautifully shot by its director Aldo Lado - who wound go on to direct one of my favourite giallo's 'Who Saw Her Die' - this features a number of haunting, lonely shots of Prague, that makes the city seem alive with danger.
Also of note is the immensely unsettling score by Ennio Morricone, whose music perfectly suits the nightmarish on-screen imagery, especially as the film progresses towards its devastating climax. Not wanting to give away the ending, all I will say is, the movie takes a sudden and welcome detour near the end, into a strange party that is filled with hallucinogenic imagery and copious amounts of nudity.

In Summation:
For giallo fans looking for something different outside the brutal thrillers of Dario Argento, or Sergio Martino, this unassuming tale of fear and paranoia could be just what you're looking for. The new Blu-ray editions by 88 Films in the UK, and Camera Obscura in Germany, are a fantastic way to experience this movie for the first time.